Show an ad over header. AMP

Facebook threatens to pull news from Australia if new law passes

Facebook said Monday that it will block users in Australia from sharing news on Facebook and Instagram if a controversial law forcing tech giants like Facebook and rival Google to pay publishers to distribute portions of their content passes this fall.

Why it matters: This is Facebook's last-ditch effort to stop the law's enactment, which it says will harm publishers more than itself. The tech giant contends that the Australian law's broad payment terms are likely to end up requiring Facebook to overpay for a relatively modest amount of content, and the social network is also wary of setting a broad precedent.


Catch up quick: Regulators in Australia released a draft code of conduct on July 31 for a one-month consultation period that ended last Friday. The final legislation is expected to be introduced to Parliament "shortly after conclusion of this consultation process," the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission says.

  • The consultation process has been ugly, and has featured a lot of testy statements back and forth from Google, Facebook and Australian lawmakers.

In an interview with Axios, Facebook's VP of global news partnerships Campbell Brown says that the company's product and engineering teams will spend the next few months building systems that will allow them to comply with the law by restricting news content from being shared on its platforms.

  • "We are looking at a number of things," Brown said. "A lot of this is in the [law's] code. We're trying to abide by how it's written."
  • "In some cases, it addresses publishers specifically. So we're looking at how we can look at publishers referenced in the code, what content of theirs is shared and go from there."

Driving the news: In a blog post Monday, Will Eason, Facebook's managing director for Australia & New Zealand, writes that the legislation "misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organizations the government is trying to protect."

  • Easton argues that regulators' solution to helping publishers build sustainable businesses online "is counterproductive" because Australian competition regulators wrongly presume that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when, he argues, "in fact the reverse is true."
  • "News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us," he writes. He argues news being available on Facebook helps publishers expand their ad reach and sell more subscriptions.
  • "Over the first five months of 2020 we sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge — additional traffic worth an estimated $200 million to Australian publishers."

Between the lines: A source confirmed to Axios last week that the company likely won't be launching its new Facebook News Tab in Australia for the foreseeable future because of the battle Facebook is fighting with Australian regulators.

  • The News Tab, which Facebook is expanding globally, is a venue for Facebook to pay select publishers for their work. Payout contracts vary depending on the size and scope of the publisher, and nothing stops Facebook from changing the payout structure over time.

The big picture: If Australia adopts the law and it becomes a model for others around the world, publishers hope the approach would provide a significant boost to the news industry, especially local news, as it faces financial decline.

Yes, but: History shows that tech giants don't take well to this type of law, and would rather pull out of a country altogether than be forced to pay publishers on terms set by lawmakers.

  • Spain passed a similar measure in 2014 that ultimately caused Google News to leave the country.
  • France is considering a related law, one that would require Google to pay publishers for featuring "snippets," or small previews of their content, in search. Like Australia, France has ordered tech firms to negotiate with publishers or face being regulated.
  • The EU passed a sweeping copyright law in 2019 that would require its member countries to adopt rules that would force tech giants to pay publishers. Google has threatened to pull Google News from the EU if member states comply.

What's next: The law is part of a larger global effort to tilt the scales in favor of content creators and away from tech companies as the pandemic continues to eat at the advertising market, putting thousands of local and national media companies out of business.

  • But Brown says she doesn't see this type of action extending elsewhere.
  • "Australia is an outlier," she says. "This doesn't in any way impact how we think about news or our commitment to news."

Go deeper: Australia orders tech to pay media firms for access to content

U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

The United Kingdom became on Wednesday the first Western country in the world to license the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use.

What they're saying: "Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19," said Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, per the Guardian.

  • "This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK."

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Biden tells NYT he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Conress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

Keep reading... Show less

The walls close in on Trump

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

Keep reading... Show less

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump applies extreme pressure on Bill Barr to release so-called Durham Report

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

Keep reading... Show less

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories